Career Corner: Personalizing your resume

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Personalizing your resume to a specific job or industry is essential as you try to showcase your fit to an employer.

Many people struggle with this because they’re entirely focused on the nature of their work, as opposed to the associated skills. For example, a student who has worked primarily in customer service and is interested in getting involved in healthcare may say to themselves, “How does my job at the mall relate to the field of nursing? Yikes, I have no relevant experience to put on my resume.”

Though it’s true that being a sales associate at Banana Republic isn’t similar to being a nurse, many skills acquired from customer service experience are helpful and applicable to any field. So, ask yourself what skills you’ll need to be successful in a new field and try to connect those past experiences, no matter the setting.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to see how potential employers may evaluate your resume. All professional fields require many more things from employees than just a theoretical knowledge base. You can be the most knowledgeable doctor ever, but if you have no bedside manner to put the patient at ease, you would create an atmosphere that lacks trust. A smart employer will be open minded about applicant’s experience; he or she won’t only look for obviously similar job titles on resume.

In the scenario mentioned earlier, the student may identity strong communication, relationship building, critical thinking, problem solving, and an ability to work on a team during stressful situations as vital skills for nursing. Identifying skills makes it a lot easier to uncover how past experience in customer service relates to a future career. Anyone who has ever walked into a store on Black Friday could make the observation that the employees working there have to be able to solve some difficult problems during highly stressful situations.

This is not limited to customer service and nursing alone; every field will help its employees gain skills that will be applicable to other fields. An applicant’s job is to connect the two.

This does not mean that applicants should include every single one of their past accomplishments or responsibilities from previous positions in their resume. Rather, they should be strategic on what will attract the employer. Think of the employer as a really picky eater and the resume as the menu, with individual bullet points as the ingredients. The key is to include the main ingredients that will seem most appetizing for the employer. So, don’t include a bullet that says “excellent relationship skills”; instead, offer details of how you utilized such skills sets.

In the Office of Career Development, we call these bullet points PAR statements, which stands for the three components to include: project, action and result. This means writing what you were tasked with doing, how you did it and what you accomplished from it. So, if I wanted to highlight my relationships skills, I could write something like “built relationships with potential customers through one-on-one conversations by taking individual shopping needs into account, which created a welcoming and engaging atmosphere.”

You won’t be in the room with the employer as he or she reads your resume, so it is imperative that you connect the dots on why your past experiences are related to the current opportunity. Every job requires training but the transferable skills you’ve developed from other experiences will showcase that you’re the right fit for the employer.

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